Nenets - Settlements

Although the permanent settlements within the Nenets territory are the result of the recent involvement of alien (mainly Russian) immigrants and administrators, a considerable proportion of contemporary Nenets live, for at least part of the year, in these very settlements. Housed in Russian-style log buildings and even buildings with modern elements, these settled Nenets, most engaged in industrial and intellectual professions, are apt to interact intensively with the dominant Russian society in all aspects of life. A very regrettable practice is connected with the so-called internate system, involving the concentration of Nenets and other aboriginal schoolchildren of various nationalities in large education complexes located in the settlements. The working language of these education complexes is Russian, which hinders the development of native-language skills. At the same time, the children are also being deprived of the possibility of becoming fully familiar with the cultural and economic patterns of their traditional culture.

The traditional type of dwelling of the Nenets is the conical tent, the use of which is also necessitated by the nomadic mode of life connected with reindeer breeding. The Nenets tent consists of a framework built from twenty-five to sixty poles, which are carried along in a sledge during migrations on the treeless tundra. The tent covering consists of reindeer hides that are sewn together and, in summer, also of specially prepared pieces of birch bark. The interior is planned to house the whole household, up to several families, but if several households migrate together a corresponding number of tents are erected close to each other to form a camp. A sheet of iron for the hearth is placed in the middle of the tent, and a movable plank floor is built on either side of it. The rest of the floor is covered with grass mats and hides. Cooking on the hearth is facilitated by a central vertical pole that is considered sacred. The places for sitting and sleeping are occupied with regard to an established social ranking, with the back part of the tent considered sacred. A recently introduced alternative to the traditional tent is the balok , a rectangular box (approximately 2 X 2 X 4 meters in size), built from a wooden frame, having a reindeer-hide covering, and standing on a sledge. The balok has gained some popularity among the easternmost Tundra Nenets (and even more among the Nganasan), but it has not been able to replace the tent as the basic dwelling used by most Nenets reindeer nomads.

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